Sound Science Bite: November 19. Are We in a Post-Antibiotic Era?

As reported in BBC Health News, we may be coming to the point where the miracle of antibiotics is at an end. Antibiotics have thwarted bacterial diseases for generations, but that may become a thing of the past. The often indiscriminate use of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to the evolution of bacteria that are resistant. It's just a page in Darwin's book of natural selection. There will be a few bacteria of the billions and billions infecting an organism that will have a genetic ability to resist the effects of an antibiotic. If antibiotics are used again and again in situations where these resistant bacteria can survive, eventually a resistant strain will evolve. The BBC news article sounds the alarm that the antibiotic colistin, which is sometimes the last antibiotic effective in many infections, is being prevented from effectiveness by a new mutation, MCR-1, that has been identified by Chinese scientists. This gene is thought to be easily shared among bacteria, including those that are resistant to other antibiotics. Scientists are worried this will lead to infections that are not treatable, meaning many patients will be told they are going to die and nothing can be done for them.

Pharmaceutical companies are always developing drugs that will make a good profit. This is not true of antibiotics. I continue to endorse a Federal roll in developing drugs, a roll that is not driven by profit but by national health security. I think it is time for scientists to demand this take place. Health is national security, as much as the military.